There are a lot of moving parts in your vehicle’s transmission. It takes a slippery liquid called transmission fluid to lubricate those parts and keep them running smoothly. It’s wise to learn how to check the fluid and know when it needs to be replaced.

More vehicle Maintenance Tips

Four Signs Your Transmission Fluid Needs to Be Changed

  • The transmission is grinding or making other strange noises (such as screeching or squealing)
  • Your gearshift is slipping between gears
  • The vehicle is surging or lurching, not handling smoothly
  • There is a delay in vehicle movement
grinding sounds could mean you need transmission fluid
When you’re spooked by a weird car sound

Checking Your Transmission Fluid

You check your oil, right? Well, you should check your transmission fluid too. It’s a very similar process: pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, re-insert the dipstick, and pull it back out to see a clear reading of the fluid level. You will also want to check the consistency of the fluid, which should be clear with a pink tint. If it looks gunky, a replacement may be in order.

The big difference between transmission fluid and oil checks is that you will actually check the transmission fluid while the car is running. Just remember to keep it in Neutral or Park, and set the parking brake for safety. If the fluid level hits below the minimum line on the dipstick, you will need to add more. Check your owner’s manual to see which kind is recommended for your vehicle.

If your vehicle doesn’t have a dipstick, don’t worry. Check the manual to learn when the fluid and filter should be changed. A common recommendation is about every 20,000 to 25,000 miles.

don't put just any transmission fluid in your car
This is NOT how it works.